Harbhajan Singh believes that the Indian team has the wherewithal to halt the 14-Test winning streak of Ricky Ponting’s Australia, much like they stopped the march of Steve Waugh’s Invincibles six years ago. Only this time, they have to produce an encore in their rivals’ den. In an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times, the ‘Turbanator’ says he has great respect for the world champions but is confident that the Indians can turn the tables on them by doing two simple things: Sticking to the basics and playing the game hard.
You must be looking forward to the tour, particularly given that your last visit to Australia was not a very happy one…
I am treating it as any other tour — the preparation has been okay. We won the series against Pakistan and I bowled well according to the situation and the wickets. I had one five-wicket haul in the first Test, it was very satisfying. In Bangalore… I don’t know. We should not be playing Test matches on such wickets.
What influence will playing on such wickets have on the team when they go to Australia?
Nothing. The wickets there are going to be totally different, so what we played on here will not affect (us).
We are also going to go and play the Test series straightaway — with almost no warm-up match. Will that affect our performance?
I don’t think so. It is a matter of time to get adjusted to the wickets. There, the wickets are good for the batsmen, with nice bounce. The last time we went there, I was injured and sat out. But I saw our batsmen play superbly. And the bowlers chipped in too. We are very much looking forward to go and play there.
How much have the Australians improved against spin bowling since 2001, when you had that incredible series against them at home?
They have always been a good team. That time also, they had a 16-match winning streak before we stopped them. Now too, they have won 14 matches or so in a row. And we will be looking to try and stop them again.
It has also got to do with playing against each other more. It is going to be a challenge for us. What we will be aiming at is make it as challenging for them as possible. It is not going to be easy for them. We have to stick to the basics and play hard. If we can do those two things, we will be successful.
Have you done any homework — try to find out about the pitch and conditions there?
Not really. At this level, one cannot be worrying about the pitches. It is all in the mind. Whatever bat you have, whatever type of ball is given to you, you have to just go out and play. We just won a series and our confidence is high. That is what matters.
You mentioned confidence, but you also spoke about the wickets. How does one arrive at a balance between winning and gaining confidence, and preparing for the coming series?
Preparing the pitch is not in my control. To me, Test cricket is a test of ability. And the pitch must offer some encouragement to the bowlers to get 20 wickets. I don’t think the Bangalore wicket was like that. We are playing a Test match and if there is no result at the end of five days, then what’s the point?
With only two spinners in the team, will that bring more pressure, burden on you?
Playing for India, whether there are one or two spinners, I would say there is responsibility on you. Not pressure. There are a lot of emotions attached to playing for India. I will try to do well and fulfill those responsibilities.
Talking about emotions, there are a few seniors in the team who probably will not be there when the next tour of Australia comes. Will that element help the team or prove to be a distraction?
I don’t know when is next time. Whether senior or junior, who knows who will be there next time? All that matters to me is I am going now and I want to make the most of it. I am going to give my best out there.
How has it been playing under Anil Kumble?
Anil has been there for the youngsters even when he was not the captain. He is the best role model for youngsters. He is a great thinker of the game. His captaincy is the best to have happened to Indian cricket because he is a fighter and he pushes his teammates too to fight till the end when things are not going well. And that is what counts.